Complementary and holistic approaches for depression
Various approaches that people use to treat their depression are generally outside the mainstream health system. Nevertheless, complementary and holistic health approaches are now becoming more common in general practices, private hospitals and community health centres.
Selecting a complementary or holistic healer can be difficult. One woman urged caution as she had met many 'weird' practitioners and thought that virtually anyone could call themselves a holistic therapist. One man did an intensive 10-day course called 'Biodanca' (dance therapy), but felt a sense of loss when the teacher then left the country. It was recommended by some people we talked to that people with depression (and their carers) adopt a 'healthy scepticism' when considering complementary or holistic practitioners.
Has come across unhelpful holistic therapists and wonders about their qualifications.
And I don't know, I don't know the exact law, but as far as I understand it' it's' maybe I'm totally wrong, but with holistic therapies and stuff like that, anyone can just set up as a therapist.
Felt abandoned when holistic teacher left the country.
Meditation and yoga
Meditation can be used as a way of becoming more 'mindful', calming the mind and body, and reducing anxiety. Gaining mindfulness can also help to defeat negative thoughts. But it can be very difficult to meditate when you are very depressed. In fact, attending relaxation classes and failing to relax could contribute to a sense of failure for some. However, certain simple meditative techniques, for instance taking slow deep breaths, helped even very depressed people.
Explains that it is very difficult to do relaxation classes when you are depressed.
When she could not relax during relaxation classes she felt a failure.
Initially he doubted that slow deep breathing could help him feel better. (Played by an actor)
Especially when people start to recover, they sometimes discover inventive ways to meditate that work for them. For instance, one man found an effective way to deal with anger constructively. Some people found a way to relax and meditate while swimming. A number of people said that meditative practices such as yoga were useful (see Mind's website for more information).
Describes a meditation that he uses to deal with anger more constructively.
And how do you do that?
It sounds funny that you can use anger to get anger out of you.
A concrete example of what you mean?
Well a concrete example is okay I, I've' because my mother had a lot of distorted religious ideas, when I'm in church, and I go to church quite often, this feeling comes over me of the stupidity of the Christian religion and a hatred of the other people in the pews with me because they, they're sort of buying it. But I'm' but I'm aware of that happening. What I do is I turn the anger that I feel sort of boiling up inside me against the concept about life which I think is partly a religious one which I don't believe in. For instance, God wants you to be miserable and I see those words upon like a signboard and mentally I throw things at the, at the board [laughs] and I let the anger sort of go in the direction of this idea. I say to myself, "That's a lie, it's a damned lie," [laughs]. And I imagine myself with a big axe chopping the board up and this sort of thing. Of course it's quite easy to stand in church or anywhere, nobody is aware of all this stuff going on. But what I've found is that it has a magical effect. At first when I did it all it did was it sort of relived the feeling of anger a bit, but now it very quickly, well it makes space for me to just think of these people that are in the church as people, and clear of that [distorted religious belief].
Says that swimming, with its repetitive movement and breathing, is his main form of stress relief...
You know, you hear all these comparisons about you know, the reason people like it is because it takes them back to the womb etc. I've heard that being used before, especially the feeling of being under water. I know the sound is all muffled and its just you know, its.... releases the endorphins, obviously the good, the feel good hormones etc. And after I found I now use it, it's my main tool for stress relief, I can often go in feeling terrible and come out feeling fine. Which was very, very common during depression and I'd go to the swimming pool and I'd go in, in the foulest of moods, and I'd come out feeling light, happy, relaxed.
And it's absolutely brilliant. I've even sometimes used it to take out aggression, so if I'm feeling very, very angry then that just reflects in the speed in which I swim. And you know, if I'm, if I'm feeling really bad, then I'll swim very fast and I'll do.... so instead of doing 20 lengths, I'll do 30, and until I feel that, that actually feel that weight lifted off.
Describes sensing a warm energy in his body from doing Tai Chi.
Energy healing featured in several people's stories about recovery. It came in many different forms, such as spiritual healing, Reiki, or Johrei. People reported a greater sense of wellbeing from such healing. One man had healing sessions at a community centre, as well as Johrei from a friend, and said that this kind of healing provided some 'spiritual nourishment' and welcome relief, but not a cure. One woman, who was also taking a newer anti-depressant, thought a spiritual healing called 'Family Tree Healing' had helped her.
He got some relief from depression, feeling better and sleeping better after spiritual healing.
So I went there and I told them I'm depressed blah, blah, blah. And I don't know if you know how it works, but I mean I closed my eyes and this person just, it's all energy and sometimes I could feel the hands but they didn't even touch me. And I used to' I mean the days I had or when I was having it, I left there kind of relieved and light and feeling much better, not that I think that would cure one's depression, but it gives you a kind of momentary relief'. Yeah, it made me feel lighter and I also tried, I have a friend who gives Johrei, and one day she came here and she, she gave me one treatment and it was also very this one there is touching you know, it's almost like, I think she did more in my head and my back but there this one you have some physical touching, and also again it's through energy and if the person's not touching you, you feel the heat and oh, so those 2 treatments I thought they were kind of very useful in a kind of giving you some relief. And I think even in terms of sleeping I think the days I had the healing, the spiritual healing, I think I felt, I think it's almost like feeling, feeling nourished in your spirit and yeah, so I thought it was very useful.
Describes how taking a new antidepressant and doing 'Family Tree Healing' helped her to recover...
And anything else, I can't remember what else, but anything can be put there, a crystal, whatever that was symbolically important. The liturgy itself, because I wasn't actually a church-going Christian, and he knew this and he accepted this, but because they believed in the Christ spirit, you know the deeper meaning of all these outer teachers. That was fine, and the liturgy was able to be altered to suit. You know, I could add or subtract from it to suit. And that... that's one of the things he does do this man, yes, in Derbyshire.
What did it do for you?
Now, the interesting thing is, on the day that I went there, I was feeling not quite so bad, because by this stage I was on a different drug. I'd been on the tricyclics, I'd been on the paroxetine, which was an SSRI.
I was now on one which is in a class of it's own, venlafaxine.
Because it was working on the noradrenaline as well as the serotonin and a- I think that's what of course I'd been needing the whole time. With the adrenaline that was all around my body. That's my theory. So, I was on that but I wasn't fully well just yet. But I was, it was one of my better days. And, I had two friends tuning in at a spiritual level to what I was doing, and other people around the country, probably praying for, thinking of me at the time. And within a very short time, I began to get much better. I had one more severe dip down, for a short time, well, two or three weeks. And then, by the beginning of December, I really was getting better, and didn't look back.
Pills and potions
A number of people had used St John's Wort (Hypericum). This appeared to work for some with mild to moderate depression. There were cautions that people should consult their doctors before using St John's Wort because it can interact with other drugs (for more information see Mind's website). A few people had also tried other remedies including fish (Omega-3) oil, Zinc, and flower essences such as 'Gorse' and 'Mustard'. A number of people believed that diet was important in depression.
St John's Wort helped his depression, but he cautions about the side-effect of increased light...
A self-help group discussed concerns about St John's Wort. (Played by an actor)
Feels that taking fish oils helped to lift her mood, but it took 6 weeks, and she continues to...
Mm, is that - it sounds almost like insurance?
That's right, that's right. I think that I - that this has been a journey, and I've learned a lot about what caused the depression, and along the way, ways of coping with the depression, so I have more control over it coming back, and if it does, how to handle it.
People said that hypnotherapy and related approaches (such as rebirthing) were helpful to a degree. One woman felt she had become less fearful and developed a more positive perspective partly through hypnotherapy, yet later stopped going when the therapist wanted to delve into traumatic childhood events. A man felt that multi-rebirths had helped him to be less anxious over time, while a woman found Craniosacral therapy relaxing.
Was surprised by the way a hypnotherapist helped her to think more positively.
Well I'm not sure what it's supposed to be about, but you know, it's all about trying to make you less anxious and stuff. But he sort of' I think a lot of these things are just down to the individual person, and how good they are, or how you get on with them. And he just seemed to come up with quite sensible ideas about it. And I think partly, if you're doing hypnotherapy, it's like you know the aim is to get a kind of release of your subconscious, and go down and teach your subconscious better things. But also, if you're doing that you're visualising stuff, and so if you say this is what I'm visualising, they go, 'Oh right, so you're seeing things like that and maybe you should see it like that.' And I think that really, even though there's no way, I can't do it now, and I should have you know, but I've totally forgotten it all. I've taken things away from that, that now there is a little bit of a little voice in my head whereas before I'd just been like, 'Oh, everything's really terrible and I can't do this, I can't do this.' There's at least a little voice in my head going, well actually maybe you can. And you know, that's a big change for me.
Doing multiple rebirths has gradually helped him to relax and become less anxious.
She feels Cranio-sacral therapy helped her to relax and get over a cold, as well as reduced the...
And what's that like?
Can you tell the people what it is?
Yeah it's bizarre. It's like a laying on of hands. It's the therapist will spend half the time cradling your cranium. Your lying on an osteopathic couch, and the other half working on the sacrum, at the base of the spine and it stimulates the cranial fluid to move around and, and basically it's, it's to enable your own immune system to, to be boosted if you like so that you can heal yourself. And I was very depressed last year and so I was on very high dosage of medication, certainly a very high amount of anti-depressant at one point, and I'd been able to come off the medication much more quickly and not suffer bad side-effects. And I'm sure that's because I'd been in this therapy at the same time.
Cranial Sacral. It's, at times it's deeply relaxing and at other times it's quite stimulating. I had a treatment last night and oh I completely relaxed. I went to dream land for a while, and I could scarcely walk when I came out, I was so sort of floaty but heavy. And I'd had a heavy cold recently and it moved a lot of sort of things like sinus fluid around, and it's just sort of dispersing it now. I feel much better than I have in days, and it really just helps you recover. Because that's all the treatment I have to pay for separately. That doesn't come under the NHS.
Others discussed Chinese medicine, including acupuncture.
Last reviewed September 2017.
Last updated October 2012.